The Thyroid Gland is one of the glands in our endocrine system. It sits in the front of our neck and controls the rate of function of every cell and gland in the body. It regulates temperature, growth, repair, and metabolism. You could say the thyroid is the master endocrine gland since you can’t ever really feel good or maintain optimal health unless you have good thyroid function! The Thyroid gland can be under-active known as hypothyroidism and over-active known as hyperthyroidism. Both problems can be seen in both genders however women have a greater chance toward thyroid dysfunction in particular hypothyroidism or low thyroid function.
Thyroid function is governed by the complex interplay of biochemical interactions in our bodies and can be affected by stress, hormone imbalance, toxicity, heavy metals, inflammation, and nutrient deficiencies such as iodine, zinc or selenium.
The thyroid is a sensitive subject between medical professionals because the medical world has not agreed upon appropriate laboratory assessment of thyroid dysfunction. Anti-Aging and Integrative physicians agree that to properly assess the thyroid you must test both the active form of the hormone T3, which is responsible for the effects of thyroid seen in the body, as well as the inactive T4 and TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which is secreted by the pituitary and communicates with the thyroid gland via a feedback mechanism to regulate the amount of hormone secreted by the gland. Other valuable tests are Reverse T3 and Thyroid antibodies which give us more information about proper thyroid function.
Most practitioners usually test only TSH and sometimes the inactive form of thyroid hormone the T4. The difficulty with this type of testing is the danger of missing the many patients who have sub-clinical hypothyroidism or a normal TSH and T4 but low T3. Ultimately it is the right amount of T3 that is responsible for optimal health and metabolic regulation. There are many patients who have normal TSH and normal T4 however have low T3! These patients may experience fatigue, constipation, weight gain, puffy eyelids, depression, water retention, hair loss, menstrual irregularity, and infertility however if the conventional doctor repeatedly tests TSH and T4 and concludes ‘normal’ results the patient’s problem unfortunately goes undiagnosed and often the patients find themselves on different pharmaceutical medications their doctor has prescribed trying to treat the multiple symptoms associated with their undiagnosed hypothyroidism. Unfortunately these patients usually never feel well and are on multiple pharmaceuticals each with dozens of side effects and their real problem is left undiagnosed and untreated.
Another area of controversy between conventional and anti-aging and integrative practitioners is the topic of what constitutes a ‘normal’ laboratory value. I believe as do other anti-aging and integrative practitioners that ‘normal’ is not dictated by the range the physicians lab of choice prints but first and foremost by what my patient is feeling. Meaning that if my patient is telling me they have irregular periods, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, and weight gain and their lab value shows a number in the lower limit of ‘normal’ I will put my patient before the lab value and treat their problem. Integrative practitioners treat patients not numbers. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Conventionally physicians have been taught to treat the lab value. Well the fact is that we are all unique and different and what is ‘normal’ for one person may not be ‘normal’ for another based on their unique genetic and biochemical makeup. Furthermore doctors have been taught conventionally to treat only very abnormal lab values meaning really high or really low numbers. As an Integrative practitioner, and personally, I know that patients can feel bad way before we see those very, very high or very, very low numbers and they need help before they feel horrible or their numbers get way out of range.
At Complexions MD we asses thyroid function thoroughly with a comprehensive thyroid panel and pay close attention to our patient’s symptoms in treating thyroid dysfunction. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism warrant treatment as well as inquiry as to the cause of the problem with further testing to evaluate toxicity, allergens, nutritional deficiency, and other hormones.
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